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September 2, 2021 1:07 pm
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DC Comics to Release Comic Book With First Jewish Superhero in Over 40 Years

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

The cover of the new DC Comics book “Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero.” Photo: DC Comics.

A young adult graphic novel from DC Comics starring a new Jewish superhero for Gotham City will go on sale next week.

Willow Zimmerman is a 16-year-old activist, volunteer at a local pet shelter and an adjunct professor of Jewish studies. The character, who is followed around by a stray dog she named Lebowitz, strives to help those in need but struggles to care for her mother, recently diagnosed with cancer.

Desperate for help, she reconnects with estranged family friend Edward (aka E. Nigma) — a party promoter and real estate tycoon who is also, unbeknownst to her, the super-villain Riddler. Paid to host his private poker nights with Gotham City’s elites, Zimmerman earns money to provide for her family and her mother’s medical treatments.

But her world changes when she and Lebowitz are attacked by Gotham City’s familiar antihero, Killer Croc.

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“When Willow and Lebowitz collide with the monstrous Killer Croc outside the local synagogue, they are both injured, only to wake up being able to understand each other,” DC Comics explained. “And there are other developments, too … strange ways in which they’ve become stronger together.”

“But when Willow discovers that Edward and his friends are actually some of Gotham’s most corrupt criminals, she must make a choice: remain loyal to the man who kept her family together, or use her new powers to be a voice for her community.”

Willow takes on the superhero name Whistle and uses her superpowers to fight Gotham City’s villains. She is believed to be DC Comics’ first Jewish superhero in more than 40 years and joins other Jewish comic book characters, including Batwoman (Kate Kane) and Harley Quinn.

The Penguin Random House comic book, called “Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero,” is by New York Times best-selling author E. Lockhart and illustrator Manuel Preitano.

“Whistle is a hero like me. Like you, maybe. She’s an ordinary person who sees what’s wrong in her city and feels powerless to right it — until she isn’t,” said Lockhart. “Whistle is a social activist, a secular Jewish person, and a teenage girl working to support her mother through sickness — all elements I haven’t seen so much in superhero comics. The story explores the dark, ethically compromised side of a superhero’s life as well as the empowerment. There’s the thrill of corruption and the lure of riches on the one hand, versus an activist’s belief in the rights of her community members on the other.”

The comic book includes a number of Jewish references and artwork, such as one scene in which Willow sits in a synagogue and ponders a Jewish proverb.

Lockhart explained, “In order to make Gotham my own, I invented a neighborhood called Down River. It’s a formerly all-Jewish neighborhood like New York City’s Lower East Side, now home to a wide range of people, but still holding onto a lot of its Jewish history and culture. Shelsky’s Bagels of Gotham. Rosen Brothers’ Delicatessen. Stuff like that.”

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